Cisco Live 2012 Community: More Than a Theory

So, I’m still working on my Cisco Live write-up, but after five days of walking at the conference and three days of walking through Legoland and Disneyland, I’m going to need a little while to recuperate!  In the meantime, I wanted to drop a few quick thoughts on the awesome community that we (all of us) have built here in the interwebs, and how that community can reveal itself in interesting ways.

PrintI love Twitter.  I love the interaction.  I love the velocity.  I love the back-and-forth.  I love trying to construct coherent thoughts with only 140 characters.  I like using it as a way to remember what, exactly, happened the night before.  I like checking into new places, I like sharing pictures.  I like trying new clients in a (seemingly) futile effort to replace my beloved Tweetdeck (old school version, please). I like how the conversation can be carried from Twitter to the blog and back, as needed.

But more than that, I love the people.  I love the personalities.  I love the attitudes and the sharing.  I love the loud and brash people, the shy people, the confident people, the timid people.  I mostly, however, like the real people.

I like real people like Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara).  Here’s a guy I’d never met in real life, and our interaction had been 100% based on Twitter.  It was impossible not to like the guy, and I was always learning something new.  Turns out he really IS that smart, and when I needed a partner to use as a sounding board for some top-secret VCE stuff, I immediately got on a plane and flew to his offices.  Boy did I get that one right.  After sharing what we were doing, and seeing Colin start to understand where things were headed, he immediately rattled off a handful of suggestions that jumped directly into the development queue.  A few weeks later, my boss and I showed him a demo of where we were with the project, and literally, Colin started hopping up and down like a kid at Christmas.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that five minutes of his enthusiasm was enough to keep me going for weeks.  Of course the next time I saw Colin he was yelling, loudly, in front of a room full of my peers, friends and customers, that I was a Foursquare liar because he hadn’t seen me walk into a restaurant before he saw my check-in.  Which, of course, he would have been doing on Twitter too, which just tells you he’s a real person!  Now I can make fun of him because his wife wants pole dancing lessons and he doesn’t want to pay for them!

Mike Stanley (@mikestanley) is another real person.  You know how I met Mike?  Because he reached out to me on Twitter, frustrated with his VCE sales experience.  In fact, he was the first person who found me out specifically because he had been reading this blog and knew I worked for VCE.  He was the first to show me that Twitter could be a central part of how I try and reach people (so remember to blame him, OK?).  Mike was a straight shooter.  He told me where he was in his project, he told me what his preference was, and how things were going to play out.  In the end, he was right.  Our inability to get him the information he needed when he needed it, and our struggles to get him the Citrix data he needed to build a solution kept us from winning his business.  But it didn’t keep us (and me) from building a relationship with Mike that has endured.  Between building home labs and chatting about tech, I never questioned whether the guy at the other keyboard was real.  I finally got a chance to meet Mike at Cisco Live, and while it was nice to finally shake his hand, there weren’t any real “introductions” that needed to be done.  We talked about family, struggles to have kids, how awesome life was and then he took pictures of my shoes.  That’s about as real as it gets, isn’t it?  I don’t care if he’s a FlexPod customer, I care that he’s a real guy and that’s good enough for me.

While this idea of “realness” isn’t exactly a revelation, it does have consequences.  There are real people out there in Twitter-land, and your communication with them has real consequences.  For every Colin or Mike that I’ve met, there are also those who I can’t break through with; people who don’t act real to me.  Much like meeting people in person, there are just some folks you can’t reach.  I’ll keep trying though, because once you find real people Twitter becomes a whole different thing.